Issue: The post-9/11 world is the only world we know


Editorial Board

One of the most tragic days in U.S. and world history was last Saturday: 9/11. While older generations remember the day vividly, college students don’t know a pre-9/11 world. We don’t know a world without TSA or a world where we don’t cover our laptop cameras because the FBI is spying on us. We were all at least 4 or younger, and most of us lived far away from the incident. So, after 20 years of watching tribute videos during class and airport security checks, what did college students learn?

Despite the well-spirited lessons of America’s coming together after the tragic event, other long-lasting lessons were taught to young Americans. Islamophobia rippled throughout the country post-9/11. That same Islamophobia slowly leaked into school systems through jokes about terrorism and rumors about Obama “secretly being Muslim.” The actions of Al-Quida were weaponized against our young Muslim and brown classmates through jokes and taunts. These jokes about plane crashes, memes about bombings and casual Xenophobia only further desensitized our generation to the tragedy of 9/11. 

So, what was the real lesson learned from 9/11, and what should the lesson have been? How can we truly “never forget” an event we don’t remember? How can we reflect on the repercussions of the event when we have never experienced a world before those repercussions?

The truth is that we will never remember that day. We will never be able to recall where we were when we first heard about what was happening. We will not know a world before 9/11 besides the world our parents and grandparents and elders have described. 

What we are able to do is empathize. We can put ourselves in the shoes of those who came before us and try to feel their fear, their surprise, their sadness. We can learn that the world was forever changed, and we can understand why. We can learn from the bad that came out of 9/11 — the deaths, the war, the Islamophobia, the fear — and we can learn how to rebuild the community from the collective mourning that we have been told so much about.